THE CASE FOR LIST-ENING ON TWITTER

grass-is-greener-where-you-water-itFirst, let me open by saying, on the whole, there is no right or wrong way to use social media. Anyone pounding their fist on the keyboard, harping that you’re doing it wrong simply means you’re doing it wrong for them. You have to find what works for you, your resources, and what you want to get out of social media. What’s more, with the ever-changing landscape of tools, apps, and features, what works for you today may not work for you tomorrow.

Maybe it’s the time of year–a period of reflection over the last 365 days while renewing a focus on what’s important–that has many people re-examining how social media is working for them. The fall guy du jour is Twitter. “It’s too noisy!” “The conversations just move so fast, I can’t keep up!” “Facebook is better because it doesn’t limit me to 140 characters.” Some have concluded that the only solution is a mass exodus-style unfollow. While mindful pruning of your connections (on any social network) is a good idea, a large-scale purge may not be.

Right or wrong, many people take social media personally. Especially when they know the person on the other side of the username in a face-to-face manner. And why can’t it be personal? For some, social media is their telephone, water cooler, and text messaging system all in one; it’s their lifeline connection to the world. A mass unfollow risks hurt feelings and/or confusion–perhaps doubly so if you use Twitter for personal and business connection.

“Oh, please. Hurt feelings over the internet?! They’ll get over it,” you say? Alright, consider this point from my insightful friend Kevin Mullett (whom I likely would not know if it weren’t for Twitter, by the way): “The more people of quality, or potential quality, that leave [a social network], the more the feeling, or perhaps reality, of it being a channel where less value can be had is perpetuated. (i.e., I hate to see good people give up, because it incrementally becomes less valuable for all.)”

Social media is, at its very core, an input/output machine. If you want quality and value, you have to be willing to roll up your sleeves, apply a bit of elbow grease, and make it happen. Otherwise, you’re quitting. But you’re not just quitting a social network: you’re quitting the potential it holds, the connections you’ve built, and the opportunities you may not find anywhere else.

If the real issue isn’t a lack of interest or commitment–if it really comes down to just time and clutter in your feed–there’s an easy solution. Think back to when you first joined Twitter. You probably followed your favorite bands, athletes, entertainment stars, products, and more, right? “Man, this is great! I’m following Justin Bieber! It’s like we’re buddies now!” (Oh c’mon, I know that wasn’t just me.) Suddenly, your Twitter feed is full of people you’ve never met and likely never will meet yammering on about what they ate for lunch at some swanky cafe, taking selfies with more people you’ve never met, and promoting their latest and greatest. If that’s what interests you then Twitter is working for you. But if you’re seeking connections with everyday folks in the city you just moved to, feedback on that creative project you’ve been pouring yourself into for weeks, or just want to talk about some of the little, dumb shit that fills our lives, well, those connections might get lost in the shuffle of BeyoncĂ©, Taco Bell, and Google.

Enter one of the most underutilized Twitter features: lists. They take minutes to set up, are a breeze to manage, and help cut through the clutter in your Twitter feed. All the big name brands and celebrities that don’t even know I exist? They all go on a Twitter list called “entertainment,” and I don’t outright follow those accounts. (Except you, Charmin and MelloYello. You’ve been generous with the Twitter love.) I can check in with these accounts any time via this list without them flooding my feed. This allows me to focus on what’s really important (to me) when I pick up my phone or log in from my computer: engaging connections. I’m on Twitter for the conversation, to feel connected to the world, and to help others. To that end, lists can help again.

“If you aren’t ready to change your habits [on Twitter], double down and try to make it work–which is certainly understandable, as we all have to choose where to invest our time–then unfollowing everyone isn’t really going to matter. I would segment people with lists and just pay attention to a list,” advised Kevin. Lists work both ways: they can segment distractions from your feed or they can hyper-focus your attention on a select group of accounts. Perhaps these are your VIPs, must-read tweets, or morning news while you’re waiting in the carpool line. The beauty of Twitter lists is that they can be used in a variety of ways to optimize your experience.

Even with the vast spectrum of features and tools at our fingertips, some may still feel it necessary to purge their Twitter (or quit all together). And that’s OK. As much as I love Twitter, I recognize that it isn’t right for every person, organization, or goal. But if your chief argument is the clutter or lack of value, invest some time in resolving the issue before throwing in the towel. If you’re not willing to put in the effort, don’t complain about a lack of results.

WHEN “SEXUAL ASSAULT BY A CUSTOMER” ISN’T IN THE EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK

Photo gently borrowed from here.

Photo gently borrowed from here.

After the conversation that ensued from yesterday’s blog post and subsequent #YesAllWomen tweets, this story needs to be told. I don’t tell it for myself. I tell it for anyone (regardless of sex, gender, or orientation) who has been silenced after an act of aggression, for anyone who was made to feel like that act was somehow their fault, and for anyone who may still be silent about it to this day. What happened to me was not my fault, and it was not ok. Neither is what happened to you. In confronting the hurt, we have the power to heal ourselves… and each other.

It was my first or second week at my new job. When you work part-time retail after school, it all sort of blurs together. I was hired to staff the young men’s department, floating over to the toddler section when needed to cover breaks, but that night, I was stationed in women’s with a woman I had never met before.

Our shift was winding down, and the roar in the mall quieted to a murmur. My coworker, the only other associate in the department that night, finally felt comfortable leaving me to take her half hour break. Not even ten minutes after she left, a man wandered into our department.

He was a small Indian man who spoke broken English and browsed the women’s clothing with a close eye. He told me he was looking for clothes to send back home to his wife. “She is about your size,” he said, asking me for help in picking out items. I asked questions like what her style was, what she typically wore, etc. etc. He dodged these questions, but I just assumed it was a communication barrier.

He held up a pair of khaki pants, reiterating that she was about the same size as me, asking me to hold them up to my person for comparison. Perhaps this is where a warning should have sounded in my head. However, I was a trusting individual, bestowing the benefit of the doubt in most cases. Also, I was new to this job–this line of work, even–and I wanted to succeed (which meant making the customers happy). Further, I was only 17. While I had experienced sexual harassment in my short time in this world, I wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen.

I obliged the man, holding the pants up at my waist. He looked me up and down, which made me a little uncomfortable. I looked around to the neighboring departments to see if anyone was nearby to help. The other associates were busy trying to get home to their lives beyond retail. I turned my attention back to the customer who was now shaking his head and making “tsk tsk” noises. “No,” he said, articulating that the fit didn’t look right to him. “You look in the mirror and tell me.” He gestured to the mirrors just outside the fitting rooms, not 10 feet away.

Again, I complied with his request. No sooner than “I think they look fine…” tumbled out of my mouth, he pushed me into the nearest dressing room stall and shut the door. “Stop.” I heard my own voice say out loud. “NO.” He silenced me with his mouth, pressing me against the stall mirror with his entire body weight. “Stop! STOP!” The voice yelled in my head, quieting down into a “Why is this happening? Why is this man doing this to me?” sort of whimper.

I’m not sure how long he pressed against me, lips on mine, exploring my body uninvited. At some point, it was like I divided: my physical self being victimized there in that dressing room stall and the rest of me witnessing it helplessly in the third person.

Suddenly, as if he remembered he had somewhere to be, the man stopped and exited the dressing room. Stunned, I stood there in wide-eyed silence. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before, and “sexual assault by a customer” wasn’t in the employee handbook.

I sauntered out of the dressing room and stood next to a clothing rack, holding onto it to steady myself against the tide of thoughts rushing through my head. Did I do something to make that man think that behavior was ok? Surely it was a miscommunication, right? He didn’t mean to do it. I’m sure he’s sorry. Should I tell someone? Do I want to be known as THAT girl when I just started here? Oh god, what if I get fired? And so on.

My coworker came back from break, immediately sensing my tension. “What’s wrong? Did something happen while I was gone?” A jumbled recap tumbled out of me. She immediately phoned the head supervisor on shift that evening. They asked me to go over my story multiple times before saying they wouldn’t report the incident to the police. “The video surveillance system doesn’t work anyway, so there’s no proof. And it’s not like you were hurt…” The whole thing was no big deal. Go home and come back the next day for a new shift. Of course, if I ever saw the man again, I was to report him immediately to store security.

At the urging of my mother and without any help from my employer, we reported it to the police. There was nothing that could be done. I knew that. I had a fuzzy description of the man, no physical evidence, and a faux surveillance system. But something in me felt it was important for people to know what happened. What if it happened to another woman? What if this man made a habit of hurting women like this? Because I was a minor, the incident showed up in the police blotter of the local newspaper as “17 year old reported being fondled by man in [department store] dressing room on [date and time].” Case closed.

But I’ll be damned if those little dressing room alert bells don’t give me a pang of anxiety to this day.

I understand #NotAllMen. I don’t like sweeping generalizations either, and I’ve known my share of good–truly good–men in my life. Men who would never intentionally harm anyone else. Men who understand what it means to treat others with respect and live as an example of that. Men who were raised to see women as people–not a gender, object, or conquest.

But please understand that all it takes is one incident to dwarf all of that and create a fear in someone that may live for years. Please try to appreciate the need for stories like this one to be told–for people to stand up and embody the faceless statistics that are so easily shrugged off. And again, this isn’t a woman or man issue; it’s a human issue. No one should experience abuse or assault. No one ever asks for it or had it coming. Period.

#YESALLWOMEN, INCLUDING ME

A fascinating conversation is happening on social media under the #YesAllWomen tag. (See here and here for a snapshot.) Reading the experiences of others is both comforting (“You carry pepper spray when you go for runs, too? I’m not the only one?”) and disturbing (“I can’t believe someone else has to endure this bullshit!”). The conversation is also empowering, lending courage and strength to voices previously silent. Like mine…

I was raped. I was also sexually assaulted. These aren’t experiences I share lightly because I anticipate judgment from others. In part, I still wrestle with judgment from myself, 15 years later. I over-analyze every detail, wondering where I signaled that it was acceptable to treat me that way… when I doubt either man ever gave it a second thought.

Most of my female friends have known what it means to fear a man at some point in their lives–be it from verbal, physical, or sexual abuse; assault; rape; or harassment. Some have experienced this fear multiple times over. Some experience it today.

These things stay with you, in small ways or large ones, forever. Sometimes, they echo louder than any positive gesture ever could.

It’s not about feminism, sexism, or any other kind of -ism. It’s about human beings. Similarly, men experience these things, too. Again, it’s about human beings–not gendered beings. No one should have to live in the threat of or experience violence.

These acts happen every day, hour, and minute. They could be happening to someone you care about right now.

What are you doing to help fight the good fight?


BopZhkhIYAAjBYN

DON’T BE A FUSSPOT

Can we take a moment here? A moment to stop and look at ourselves in the mirror? Not the mirror of self-admiration but the mirror of being honest with ourselves? If you’re ready for that, read on.

Please use your thumb so you can't type on your phone anymore.

Please use your thumb so you can’t type on your phone anymore.

Maybe it’s this turbulent 2014 that everyone seems to be having, but social media has been really whiny as of late. We get it: you hate conference calls, your sister isn’t a very nice person, your boss doesn’t appreciate you, traffic sucks, it’s sunnier somewhere else, ad nauseum (no, seriously, nauseum). What’s more is some of these offenders moan about the same thing every. single. day. Misery may love company, but you’re wearing us out with that shit.

Ask yourself this one question, and answer honestly. Would YOU want to follow you? Social exchanges are, by the nature of an exchange, a give/take relationship. If all your social media is full of negativity, what value are you giving others? Why would anyone want to engage with you? Further, if you don’t like something, change it–don’t just tweet about it. If you sit on your ass after going off on some long diatribe about how “someone should really do something about _____” you clearly don’t care about it that much.

“But I use social media to vent so I don’t go all Milton on the place and burn this MFer down.” Venting is natural, and if blowing off some steam helps you maintain your sanity, please vent away. But when the venting hijacks your feed–when that’s your primary mode of communicating with the world–it might be time to step away from the smartphone or desktop and find an outlet for that frustration.

Real talk and human emotion is welcome. Constant bitching is not. Be cognizant of what you’re putting out into the world. More often than not, positive input receives positive output.

SAY NO TO THE SNARK ATTACK

Hi. *wave*

7218846584_d1e226acd1_nI know you feel protected and mildly invincible behind the screen of that device you’re reading this on right now, but those feelings have created some negativity in their wake. I’m talking about the vitriolic comments that people would (likely) not make if they weren’t hiding behind their computers and mobile devices. I’m talking about the hatred that fills the comments sections of the internet. I’m talking about discourse that would make your mother roll her eyes and slap your mouth if she read it.

You know what I’m talking about. The Indy Star recently did a special on this where reporters read some of the most horrible comments on their writing. Even poor Matt Lauer was a target when he stepped in for Bob Costas’ crusty eyes on Olympics coverage. These are just two examples from my personal sphere on the internet in the past 24 hours; this stuff is everywhere. And it needs to stop.

How about from this moment on we each make a commitment to be a little less off-the-cuff snarky and a lot more thoughtfully supportive in our everyday internettings? I’m not sure when it became “cool” to be an internet troll, but if literature has taught us anything, it’s that trolls never win in the end. (Just look at the stone trolls from The Hobbit.)

This isn’t to say you can’t be witty in your online discourse. My friend Ben (he’s amazing, by the way) is the master of this. And while sometimes his puns have a bit of a pointed jab to them, you don’t question the intent behind them. His wit is never out for blood, but the humor of it never suffers for it. And Ben never lets a focus on being “the funniest in all the internet land” get in the way of being helpful either. See, there’s a difference between being a snark-shark asshole and being a witty human being.

Google “internet snark,” and you’ll return thousands of results: discussion on its origins, advice on how to deal with it, and open letters like this one that tell people to cut the crap. But perhaps the most powerful of all of the search results are the ones that detail personal struggles with internet snark and online bullying. Will Matt Lauer read every single scathing comment made about him online during his coverage of the Olympics? I highly doubt it. But those Indy Star reporters? They do read the comments, and they don’t have skin made of steel.

We don’t have to go all “Kumbaya” and hold hands here. But the ratio of internet snark to civil, productive discourse is spinning out of control. We each have the power to help stop it. The next time you feel a snark attack coming on, just step away from the keyboard and say “no.” Don’t sit around and bitch about shit just for the sake of complaining. (If something really bothers you, CHANGE it. Whoa, now there’s a concept!) Don’t patronize the snark market. Don’t feed the trolls. And never-ever-ever read the comments. I leave you with some old advice (replace “speak” with “type”)…

Think-before-you-speak